It’s time to root out unsustainable grass lawns

Given the severity of the climate crisis, we need to consider sustainability in every component of our lives—and that includes landscaping. 
Whether in an urban centre or on a suburban street, grass lawns are an eco-unfriendly standard for our domestic and community greenspaces. 
Lawns aren’t meant to survive a North American climate. They’re monocultures native to the wet, mild conditions of Europe. As such, to maintain their picturesque nature, grass lawns require an unreasonable amount of irrigation, fertilizers, and toxic pesticides and herbicides. 
Today’s lawns originate from seventeenth-century wealthy landowners. Instead of using their property productively, for farming or livestock, they used the space aesthetically. Their well-trimmed grass was a status symbol: it proved they could afford to expend labour and land on maintaining their appearances.
Hundreds of years later, this pointless tradition is still ingrained in our culture. 
We waste water trying to keep our lawns green throughout the summer. Household water use can increase up to 50 per cent during the summer months, as people use hoses and sprinklers to water their lawns.  
Insects struggle to survive when bombarded with the pesticides used to maintain our flawless, uniform green turf. The so-called weeds that lawn-owners aim to eliminate, like the ubiquitous dandelion, are sources of food for bees and other essential pollinators—insects integral to the production of three-quarters of our major food crops.
Lawns are more than a waste of space—they’re harming our ecosystems.
We need to stop trying to keep our manicured lawns alive and opt for environmentally conscious alternatives. Clover, for example, is a soft, hearty, and sustainable turf that just so happens to be drought-resistant. It produces tiny flowers that are bee-friendly as well. 
Municipal investments into repurposing green spaces to create bee gardens or vegetable gardens are a necessity. Transforming public parks and sports fields from grass to clover would be a simple and eco-friendly transition. It’s vital that we create suburban communities that are not only more sustainable, but that actively combat the climate crisis in a material way. 
Furthermore, province-wide pesticide and herbicide bans and restrictions on outdoor water consumption effectively deter these tedious and harmful lawn maintenance practices. 
As young people mobilizing to take action, we should call upon our municipalities to encourage the prioritization of sustainable greenspaces. We can only combat the climate crisis through a holistic approach. 
We cannot continue to maintain old-fashioned aesthetics at the expense of our planet’s wellbeing and our own survival.
Amelia is The Journal’s Production Manager. She’s a fourth-year Fine Art student.

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